Let the Sounds of Summer Inspire You

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TakeMeOutBallgameCoverHere’s something to think about when you’re enjoying summer music in the park: collaboration! In his most recent column, Stony Evans, describes ways to bring music into your school library for both enjoyment and curricular connections.

Subscribers to SLC can look forward to reading Stony’s next Advocacy in Reach column on encouraging student voice and choice in the library in the August/September issue. Subscribers can also read his past columns by visiting School Library Connection.

I spent the first twelve years of my career in education as a school band director. Even after leaving that career eight years ago to become a teacher librarian, I still enjoy a part-time career in music. As teacher librarians, our strengths and passions just may be contagious within the learning community. By maintaining relationships with local music teachers and musicians, I have brought music into the library whenever possible for enjoyment and curricular connections.

School Music Groups

There are many collaboration opportunities in music awaiting you right within the school. For instance, our high school jazz band usually performs in the library during lunch once per semester. This group typically has fifteen to eighteen students always anxious to perform. The library is a great place to celebrate their efforts during lunch programming. Many students and teachers come to hear them perform. This event has the potential to draw new student patrons to the facility. We are grateful to our band directors for their willingness to play in the library venue.

There may also be opportunities in neighboring schools. We invited Hot Springs High School—a nearby school with a student gospel choir called Diamonds in the Rough—to perform for our students in the library during Black History Month. The group performed to a standing room only crowd in the library at lunch. They did such a spectacular job that our students and teachers talked about the event for weeks! Don’t hesitate to contact neighboring schools and colleges to book performing groups to coordinate with events and curriculum.

Community Music Groups

Local musicians are artists who are usually in search of places to perform. In our area, the Hot Springs Flute Ensemble is a prime example. This seventeen-piece group of local professional and student musicians has performed at the library twice in recent years. Hosting local groups serves as a way to bring the community into the school, giving the learning community the opportunity to listen to styles of music they do not normally hear. When we have a group like this, we try to display nonfiction books that cover musical instruments and music styles. And when you’re looking for musicians to invite, don’t overlook student music groups at a local college or university.

Curriculum Connections with Music

Our ninth grade English classes read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee each year. In 2014, the teachers requested that I perform popular music from the 1930s to help bring the period to life for students. I suggested we make it more interesting by bringing in local jazz musicians. I called my music colleagues, and they quoted an amount for performing for a six period day. The teachers wrote up a proposal to inform administrators how the live music would connect with the curriculum, and the high school principal approved the event. The musicians prepared a program of top songs from 1930-1939. The combo of players also invited me to play a few tunes with them! This was a good occasion for me to show some of my other skills as an educator. (You can view the performance of Night & Day Common Core 2014 at https://youtu.be/C2akIl3tsXI)

We didn’t really know how classes would respond to jazz music since it is an unfamiliar style to teenagers, but it turned out that they loved the performances! It was very exciting to see the library used as a presentation area for live American jazz music. At the end of the program, the English teachers surveyed their classes. Students commented that they enjoyed the program and that it helped them understand popular music from the period. Since it was such a success, we hosted this collaboration again the next year.

Benefits All Around

In recent years, I have noticed that public libraries around our state are hosting local bands and various music ensembles for community performances. This is a great practice that school librarians should consider. When we make community and curriculum connections such as this, everyone benefits. Libraries can also showcase their relevant print and electronic sources to provide additional information to students. As an advocacy practice, consider inviting teachers, administrators, and parents to attend. If the musical group allows it, post photos and video clips on all library social media. This type of promotion may change how your community—and maybe how your students— view the school library!


About the author

EvansStony Evans, MS, is a school library media specialist at Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, AR. He earned his master’s in library media and information technologies from the University of Central Arkansas. Visit his blog at librarymediatechtalk.blogspot.com, email him at  stony_evans@lakesidesd.org, or follow him on Twitter @stony12270.

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1 thought on “Let the Sounds of Summer Inspire You”

  1. Bravo, Stony, for connecting music events to curriculum through collaboration. Here’s one more. School librarians can facilitate collaboration between the ELA-R and departments to provide musical interludes in an annual poetry slam (held in the library). School librarians can be part of students’ preparation for the slam through exploring poets and poetry and composing poems through classroom-library coteaching. The musical piece can be particularly fun if you have a jazz band on campus.

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